FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — The small margins of a basketball game are where Davonte Davis thrive, and while he might not be lighting up the scoreboard this season, the Arkansas basketball senior is still finding a way to lead by example.
Davis flirted with a triple-double Monday night, posting 7 points, 10 rebounds and 8 assists in the Razorbacks 97-83 win over Furman. He was a team-high plus-15 in 38 minutes, committing zero turnovers and constantly making the right decision on both ends of the floor.
“I thought he was phenomenal. I thought it was his best game of the year,” Arkansas head coach Eric Musselman said. “We played him all over the place. We played him at the 1. We played him at the 2. We played him at the 3. We played him at the 4. He saved us from a rebounding standpoint, without a question. His defensive rebounding saved the game for us.”
Davis only attempted 5 shots against the Paladins Monday, and his limited scoring has been a common theme through the early stages of the season. He’s only averaging 7.8 points per game.
Davis might not be the Razorbacks’ first, second or third scoring option, but he’s dominating games and setting the Arkansas (6-3) standard in other ways. Musselman called the senior’s all-around impact ‘really important’, and a model for the rest of the team.
No player on the Arkansas roster entered this season with more winning experience than Davis. He’s thrived in the most high-pressure moments of March and shown he can be the No. 1 option in a do-or-die scenario. Who could blame the Jacksonville, Ark. native if he decided his senior season needed more personal scoring?
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Fortunately for the Razorbacks, that mindset has never been what’s attracted Davis to basketball.
“It makes it more fun. Rebounding and just throwing it up the court, or rebounding and just taking off with it or even making an extra pass and see a three-ball go up and then you see (Khalif Battle) dancing,” Davis said. “Why not enjoy that type of basketball? I know they love it. If we all continue to do that, nobody can stop us.”
The ball wasn’t moving when Arkansas lost three-of-four games earlier this season. At the Battle 4 Atlantis, the Razorbacks averaged a pedestrian 6.3 assists per game. To make matters worse, the Hogs committed 43 turnovers across three games and were stuck in the mud.
Davis wasn’t great in The Bahamas. He forced things at times and attempted 28 shots in the first two games.
Since then, he’s reverted back to a more patient approach, and the Arkansas offense has thrived in wins over Duke and Furman. On a team filled with depth and scoring punch, Davis is playing the most minutes because of his reliable rebounding and passing.
And perhaps the most consistent aspect of Davis’ game is his defense. The senior always matches up against the opposition’s best perimeter scorer and provides relentless on-ball pressure. It’s a luxury for Musselman to have such a versatile offensive player also serve as a dominant force defensively.
When the stakes reach their apex later this season, Davis will still be one of the most reliable options. In the Round of 32 during last year’s NCAA Tournament, Davis scored 21 of his game-high 25 points in the second half as Arkansas shocked Kansas. He’s capable of turning on the scoring switch under the bright lights.
But for now, Arkansas needs Davis to dominate the margins. Fortunately, tilting a game in those small spaces make the Hogs’ senior leader the happiest.